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Cherokee Green Man

Jackson had long since announced his intention to remove all Indians to the West. A date certain had been set, and though it was many seasons away, it was rushing toward them. Some of the Scottish Indians on the Nation paid little heed to it. They believed in their ability to make a deal. But Bear had seen Jackson at work. The Old Possum was implacable, and he meant to put an end to Indians.

—End-times are tricky things to deal with, Bear said.

He moved out of the light, gliding toward a dark corner where his voice would be deepened by the intersecting walls and project sourceless into the vaulted and dramatic space. He reminded the people of the great comet years ago, before the memories of many in his audience. Its tail stretched across half the sky, and it had fallen through the night for weeks. Then over and over for more than two months, the old and dying earth shook until one wall of the townhouse had fallen away and the roof collapsed. Holes opened in the ground and filled with bad water. Hens were shaken from their roosts onto the dirt, and treetops swayed though there was no wind whatsoever.

Shortly thereafter, an old man reported that one afternoon he was sitting by a fire in his cabin yard when a tall man came out of the woods. All his clothes were made of green leaves, big sycamore and poplar leaves fashioned so that they lapped one another like snake scales, and he had his head covered with a broad hat of waxy laurel leaves. He carried a child in the crook of one arm, and he claimed the child was God and God was fixing to destroy earth soon unless the people returned to the old ways and gave up clothes of woven cloth and guns and plows and nearly all metal whatsoever, and quit growing yellow corn and went back to real corn—the old mottled ears—and stopped grinding their kernels between the stones of water mills and went back to pounding it into meal by hand in log mortars, and resettled the old towns and rebuilt the townhouses on top of the mounds and recommenced observing all the old sacred festivals and dances in the squaregrounds at the foot of the mounds. The Green Man laid down all these conditions, and God offered no additional opinions on his own but just kicked his bare feet against the air and pulled at the leaves of the man's tunic and looked around as if seeing everything he had made for the first time, and his attitude was one of surprise and delight.

Soon a prophet named Dull Hoe weighed in with his vision. Dull Hoe was a man who did not just visit the spirit world but resided there nearly full-time and only experienced this world as a vague troubling dream. On a lonesome journey into the mountains, he had seen black riders come across the sky on their mounts and light to rest on a high peak, Tusquitte Bald to be exact. Their leader was beating a drum, and the whole world vibrated to its urgent rhythm. When he quit beating, he started talking, and his words matched up with the story of the Green Man and God. Stop following white ways, don't break the bones of corn in hideous and violent machines, forswear all metal, wear hides not cloth, be wary of the wheel in all its forms, see the plow as an enemy, dance the old dances. Die otherwise. For a great storm was coming soon, with hailstones as big as hominy blocks falling from a black sky, killing all the whites and anyone else who did not go to refuge in the highest mountains. The world would be wiped clean. Afterward, the disappeared deer and elk and buffalo would return from wherever they had gone, and the people could go hack to living like they used to, all the beauty and blood of the old ways restored to them.

Soon, belief in these visions and revelations became widespread, and trails from the foothills up to the mountains began filling with pilgrims. They went to the high balds and camped in the long grass and waited. There was not a date as exact for that apocalypse as Jackson had given for this one. Soon was all the Green Man and God and the Black Rider had said.

When the people had been up on the mountaintops so long that by anyone's reckoning soon had long since passed without any sign of a cleansing storm gathering on the horizon, they journeyed back down to the same hopeless world they had fled.

Bear, who then as now lived in the mountains and kept mostly by the old ways already, had not followed the pilgrims but watched all of it with despair. What he believed then was that Green Man and God were not going to save him or his people. And he believed the same now. There would be no regaining what was lost. A world once gone was gone for good.

- Charles Frazier, Thirteen Moons (Random House, 2006), pp. 176-178.

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